The Cascade Effect, is a one-stop-guide for small businesses, startups and those who want to learn how PR can grow your business, making you a successful entrepreneur!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How Journalists Use Search & Social Media

A great blog post, while dated, is a great argument I use every day as to why your business should have an online pressroom!

Posted by Lee Odden on Feb 24th, 2010 in Online Marketing, Online PR, SEO, Social Media
TopRank ran a survey of journalists, reporters and editors on their use of search and social media in 2008. We found 91% use search engines like Google to do their job. 64% use social networks. Published in Jan 2010, a George Washington University and Cision survey of journalists reports 89% use blogs and 65% use social networks to research stories.

As prep for a presentation I’m giving Thursday at Online Marketing Summit on the intersection of SEO, Social Media and PR, I reached out to a few local journalists and industry news contacts and asked for examples of how they used search engines or social media to do story research.

Newsrooms are cutting staff and reporters and editors are hard pressed to do more with less. Tools like search engines and social media make available a tremendous amount of information in real-time. The news world is a world of deadlines and it would seem the use of search and social networks to source experts or people/companies that fit a story angle would be ideal. Even respected news organizations like the BBC are encouraging their journalists to embrace social media.

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Jennifer Fortney
Cascade Communications
@SmallBizPRXpert and @MyStorySource

Thursday, July 18, 2013

PR Stunts: Expect the Unexpected

(As originally published on's Inc. Well)

PR Stunts.  Everyone wants to do them and hopes they trigger massive media attention.  From the World's Largest Roll of Toilet Paper to tying small promotional banners to flies and setting them loose in a crowd (, PR Stunts are becoming a more and more desired avenue for small business.  Why?  Because a little creativity doesn't cost much.

While your creativity can pay off dividends with media exposure, some are good, some are bad and some....well, they just have an unexpected outcome.  You have to be prepared for it all.

Take the 2013 Blackhawks Stanley Cup Game One Ticket Giveaway by Chicago-based   Their intention was to create an ad on Craigslist "from" the most obnoxious character ever.  Someone the average person would deem ridiculous, clearly not real and not something anyone would find believable.  The company would collect the responses and later distribute as a pitch to local media with the Top 10 responses of what Blackhawks fans would do for tickets. 

The only problem is that Blackhawks fans believed it to be true and proved they would do anything to get their hands on some tickets.  Word spread and it went viral. 

Within 48 hours of hitting it hit USA TODAY, Chicago magazine, Complex Sports and others.  They didn't even know until WLS-AM called wanting to talk to them. 

Another issue:  because they did not expect it to go viral, they didn't put their name on it.  What could have been great exposure for their company was a missed opportunity. 

I spoke to Rob Cressy at who had some great "lessons learned" to share with other small businesses:

  • You can't make something go viral.  We had no intention of it getting picked up.   We put no effort into making it to viral.  It was just a crazy idea we came up over a ping pong game that happened to generate a lot of attention.

  • Always expect the unexpected.  We created this idea with zero expectation that anything would happen and missed a PR opportunity. We've created other content, spent less time on this and it went further than any other idea we've had.  Be prepared if something does happen.

  • Own it. Since our name wasn't attached, we are still going back to our original idea to get media interested in sharing those Top 10 Finalist videos  and show exactly what people would do for tickets (To date: picked it up) to generate some PR.

  • Put your money where your mouth is. We had no tickets.  We had no intention of giving them away, but we realized that the integrity of our company and website were at stake.  We didn't want people putting out negative messages, so we ponied up, bought the tickets and selected a very deserving winner. 

  • Put a positive spin on a light-hearted situation.  It was completely worth it to give away the tickets.  Our mission is to help people achieve their dreams through the love of sports, and we did that.  We chose the right winner and were thrilled to give her an awesome experience, which she shared on social media, and we got to share with her. 

Cressy said the experience has inspired them to do similar things in the future, but they will definitely take the outcome of this stunt into consideration as they continue to create innovative ideas and content for their site.  It's also provided insight into how they market to and engage with fans and followers in the future.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Social Media Let's You Think BIG with PR

(As originally posted on's Inc. Well)

Social media has allowed two key things to occur: 1. Brands, and even CEOs, can now engage directly with their audience and 2. Small business and startups have the chance to market like the big boys.

When I worked in a corporate PR agency implementing multi-million dollar campaigns we didn't have social media, and, it has since, changed everything when it comes to connecting with your audience.  Now, small business and startups can come up with their own kind of PR campaign that will attract media and grow awareness through social media. 

What do I mean?  Let's look at one example: 

Got Milk?  I can only imagine what the Got Milk? campaign would have looked like in its heyday with the help of social media, in conjunction with PR and advertising.   I can imagine the number of teens posting pictures of their walls covered with Got Milk? ads on Facebook (a contest we actually held);  not to mention the speed with which Call for Entries for a number of contests would have spread in general; college students across the country interacting with the Got Milk? Mobile, spreading the word and posting photos on Twitter; Moms sharing how they get their kids to drink milk; even the leak of the latest celebrity mustache photo session videos. 

This all started with one simple idea that any small business can develop and take viral.    

Today, all it takes is a little creativity and the ability to develop something that connects and is relevant to your company.  Companies like yours do it every day (link and you can too with some these tips

  • What do you want to accomplish?  Get your brand out there, increase engagement, increase sales, all of the above?

  • Define your target audience and what matters most to them about your company - This will give you a starting point for the next step as well as understand how your audience will most likely engage with your company.

  • Brainstorm - There are no bad ideas in brainstorming, just the one's you cross off.  Gather your team for a session that will flush out that perfect, creative idea and messaging that your audience will connect with, along with prizes, how to win and how the campaign will end...all the details.

  • Plan it out - Just because you have the idea doesn't mean you put it in play tomorrow.  It takes planning to create a successful campaign.  You really have to think through how it will go, what messages go where and how long will it last.  Maybe your campaign will attract media'll need time to put a PR plan in place, as well as advertising like Google Adwords, Facebook ads, etc.

  • Management - A campaign like this can require all day, daily monitoring.  Define who on your team is going to be fully committed and responsible for managing the day-to-day of your campaign; creating reports, engaging will all users, etc.

  • The Big Finale - Make a big deal about your winners.  You've created so much hype through the campaign you don't want to end it like a wet noodle.  Use the new following you've created to celebrate your winner(s) and toast your success!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why You Can DIY PR for Your Business

(As originally published on's Inc. Well)

As an entrepreneur, the most precious commodity you have is time.  There never seems to be enough of it for you to fill every role you play every day.  It's enough just to be CEO, accounts receivable/payable, secretary and janitor, but throw in public relations efforts and it feels as if one ball must fall in order to keep  a new one in the air. 

Truth is that in the beginning stages you most likely don't have the funding to pay for professional PR help.  However you desperately need to get the word out, generate interest and sales in order to create a PR budget.  It's the chicken and the egg.  So what do you do?

I am here to tell you that DIY PR is totally possible with some time management tips.  And, when you're ready to work with a pro, you will be more knowledgeable about PR, your story/message and your audience.

  •        Keep it highly targeted - I call it the Bowl of Spaghetti Theory - when you throw a bowl of spaghetti up on the wall and watch to see what sticks.  Some use this Theory in PR by blast emailing press releases to media/bloggers and it never works.  The best approach is a highly targeted one where you go directly where your audience is.  Know your audience and you will know where to target your press release.
  •        Research the media you want to be in - Do they even cover your industry or business?  You might want the "Oprah Effect" by being highlighted in "O" magazine, but editors are mostly interested only in lifestyle consumer products and services, not your computer software program.  It's important to find the right media outlet that will not only reach your target audience, but will also be interested in what you have to offer.  You wouldn't pitch your energy drink to the local magazine's Theater Editor, would you?  Know the media, read it and you'll know who you want to target.
  •        Break it down - You see an opportunity for your product/service with 500 media outlets and bloggers, but with limited time that seems entirely too daunting a task so, paralyzed by the enormity, you choose to do nothing.  My suggestion is to pick your top 10 or 25 media outlets (depending on your time) and chip away at the long list slowly but surely, with a focus on those that will definitely be interested to create quick hits.  Give each grouping about a month and then move on to the next grouping, only following up with those media that showed previous interest.
  •        Make the time - Schedule out time in your week, about two-three hours, to work on your PR efforts - developing a media list, writing your press release, pitching media and follow up.  If you stay focused and really commit during that time, you will be happy to see how much you can accomplish.  It may take some time to get started, but once you get rolling and generate interest, it will be easier and worth it!
  •          Be available and attentive - Most of the time media have pretty tight deadlines.  That means they need to talk to you while they're writing the story.  So, it's important to make sure that you are available to media who do show interest in your business.  This means getting back to them right away when they call or email, even if they can only do an interview with you in the next hour.  This is what you wanted, right?  So make sure you are responsive to their requests, meet their needs, answer their questions all in as timely a fashion as possible.  Otherwise, you might miss out and your efforts will all be for not.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Prepping Your Business for Marketing Success

(As originally posted on's Inc. Well)

So your business is going to be featured on TV or in a print article.  It's very exciting, but are you, and is your business, really prepped and ready for the increased sales and attention?

As is true before starting any type of marketing campaign, you really must have a plan in place for the potential instant growth your company may experience thanks to the push.   Too many small businesses simply fail to put in place critical procedures to streamline the transition.  They think short-term but not long-term, or they simply have doubts that their product will actually drive that much demand. 

You only get one chance to make an impression on customers so you really need to be prepared. 

Some years ago I had a client that had a few months notice before some major magazine gift guides came out, and we spoke at great length about their preparation.  While they were prepared, they weren't prepared enough.  They doubted the amount of instant interest the product would create and were thrown into a four-month whirlwind that left them juggling demand and staffing, a move into a warehouse and negotiating with vendors to get more product....yesterday.  I couldn't even get them on the phone for three months!

Here are some tips to consider before your implementing your PR/marketing push:

1.       Get a plan in place - The key is to stay organized through it all because it's very easy to find your head below water, and when that happens balls get dropped, customers become irritated and may even cancel their orders.  You want to be sure to make the most of the interest you're driving and leave the best possible impression on your customers so that they will not only return, but provide valuable word-of-mouth through social media and to friends and family.

2.       Talk to your vendors  - It's important that you alert your business vendors or partners to the fact that you are implementing a PR or marketing campaign so they can have time to prepare for an influx of demand.   More importantly, how long will it take to get more inventory to fill orders?

3.       Check your inventory - Do you have enough inventory on hand to meet the demand while waiting for more product to come in?  How will you respond to customers who may have to wait longer than usual to receive their order?  Offer free shipping? If you don't have a fulfillment house or warehouse, where are you going to put all the product you need?  How are you going to organize it and track sales?  What will be your shipping procedure?

4.       Staffing - How will you staff your business to help meet the demand?  Who will handle customer service, shipping, ordering, managing inventory, etc?  Friends and family are a great resource to help manage last minute demand, but ultimately you will need to consider hiring people.  That means getting job descriptions written so you can post them quickly, or set up a temp agency.  Then you will need to figure out how to handle the interview, hiring and onboarding process.

5.       An overwhelmed website - This is something everyone would love to happen, but it's also the most frustrating for interested customers, and the fastest way to lose sales.  Talk with your web company about how to handle the demand hitting your website (and shopping cart) and putting procedures in place to ensure it doesn't happen.  When a customer wants to buy they want to buy right then.  If your website crashes the odds are fair that they might return, but a large number may not once it's no longer top of mind.